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Challenge: various diet requirements and various locations

My husband and I visit NYC 2-3 times a year and love to sample a wide range of restaurants. For our trip next weekend and another in May, we have a new challenge: I have just decided to stop eating all meat and most dairy (I'll eat dairy if it is humanely raised). I still eat fish, including sushi. My husband is trying to go along with the program but still likes meat occasionally. We will be meeting our daughter for some meals in NY, and she is mostly vegan (but may eat dairy or eggs if humanely raised). Despite my commitment to change, I don't like meat substitutes and don't find many appealing items on strictly vegan menus (other than salads, which I love). We don't want to waste money on food that fits the requirements but doesn't taste great. We all like Indian and Middle Eastern food as well as other ethnic cuisines. Farm-to-table restaurants may also work.
We'll need lunch and dinner in various locations. For this weekend, we will be staying at a hotel in Brooklyn, on 4th Ave. near 25th St. (R line is nearby, and we can transfer to F line) so we could get dinner in Brooklyn if there is a place convenient to those subway lines (I guess I need to post on that board), or we could get dinner in lower Manhattan. On Saturday around lunchtime we will be in Central Park in the Bandshell area (72nd) and/or Fifth Ave. and 105th St., but if there is nothing suitable around there we could go elsewhere. We will be dressed for walking so can't go anywhere fancy, and in any case prefer casual settings that are reasonably priced.
For lower Manhattan, Pala on Allen St. and Westville sound good; I've crossed off some other places that have been suggested on Chowhound because of some poor reviews on Yelp (Blossom, Candle Cafe, Caravan of Dreams, Spring Street Natural, Tiengarden). Beyond Sushi sounds good but may not be conveniently located. For lunch Josie's on Amsterdam at 74th is a possibility (we've eaten there before and been reasonably satisfied), but need another option if we end up at Fifth and 105th at lunchtime. Suggestions?

It would also be great if you could suggest someplace to get tasty chocolate cookies or other desserts that are vegan or are made with humanely raised dairy and eggs. I'm guessing that my old favorites, such as Levain, won't meet the requirements.

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  1. Post on the Outerboroughs board for brooklyn ideas.

      1. re: kathryn

        Thanks, Kathryn, that second link (Erin Zimmer's favorites) has several places that look good--I've added 61 Local, Chuko, Taim, and Maoz to my list. But I still would like suggestions for lunch on Upper East Side near Central Park roughly between 72nd and 105th (that's where we will be this Saturday).

        1. re: patdance

          Taim is wonderful! Most of the menu is vegan :)
          Maoz is decent, but a distant second place to taim

        1. re: Skippy1414

          Thanks, Skippy, Babycakes looks great! My mouth is already watering in anticipation of the brownies and double chocolate chip cookies.

          1. re: patdance

            Babycakes also has several cookbooks, so if you try anything you really like, you can find out how to make it at home!

            Also, there's a highly regarded vegan food truck called the Cinnamon Snail that always has a lot of different sweets. They post where they're going to be on Twitter: @VeganLunchTruck. Might be worth checking to see if they'll be anywhere you'll be.

            1. re: Skippy1414

              Skippy1414, I don't dare make sweet treats at home because I have no self-control and will eat the whole batch in about a day! At least when I go to a bakery I don't buy more than a couple of items at a time--though I suspect I will make more than one visit to Babycakes on this trip.

              I'll see if I can find out where Cinnamon Snail is, but we are not on Twitter so that may be difficult.

              1. re: patdance

                Just to update you, as our plans evolve it looks like we will have dinner Saturday in Brooklyn in Fort Greene--not where we originally expected to be, but our daughter asked us to attend a late-afternoon dance performance at The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew on Clinton Ave. (on the C/G line) and suggested having dinner after at Walters across from Fort Greene Park. Although there are not a lot of vegan options, my daughter says there are a couple of things she will eat, and I'm still eating fish so there are a lot of options there. We ate at the Walters in Williamsburg a couple of years ago and enjoyed the overall experience as well as the food, so I'm hoping the Fort Greene location will also be good.

                1. re: patdance

                  Huh, somehow I've never noticed Walter's, even though I work right down the street. Go figure, I'm learning new places myself.

                  1. re: patdance

                    This is the wrong board but how about Olea instead of Walter? Olea has a small menu with a fair amount of fish and non-meat small plate dishes (roast chickpeas). I've been to Walter in Williamsburg and remember it as being a somewhat heavy meaty menu.

                    There's another place in <whispers> Brooklyn that serves a lot of salads you might like. I can't remember the name but begins with an A, something like Arilia or Aroola, Areoli, sorry, cannot remember..

                    1. re: mushroomaffairs

                      mushroom affairs, Olea looks like a good alternative and seems to be a fairly short walk from the performance location--I will send the link to my daughter to see what she thinks. However, the menu for Walters in Fort Greene looks more fish heavy than meat heavy, and that's OK with me and my husband. The choice may come down to convenience of location.
                      I tried all of the spellings you gave for the "begins with A" restaurant but can't find anything.

                    2. re: patdance

                      I think Chuko is close to the Church of your performance. It's not my favorite bowl of ramen, but many folks enjoy it.

                      1. re: villainx

                        Thanks, we considered Chuko but don't think we'll want ramen/soup for that meal. Will probably save for a cold-weather trip.

                  2. re: Skippy1414

                    What's good from the Cinnamon Snail? Someone I know was just asking about it.

                    1. re: squid kun

                      The cinnamon roll! The blue corn pancakes at bfast are awesome, thai tempeh sandwich and the burger with korean condiments- the menu changes a lot with daily specials too.

              2. For nicer dinners, you might want to look into Dirt Candy and HanGawi - probably the two most popular vegetarian restaurants among meat eaters. The former does creative, playful dishes (about half of which can be made vegan) and the latter traditional Korean Buddhist cuisine - very different than your typical Korean BBQ fare. I'm an omni bordering on carni, and I love them both. They both book up very quickly, though.

                For a casual lunch, I find Il Verdure, the "vegetable-focused" little mini-restaurant inside Eataly, to be great. It's actually probably my favorite of all the food stands in there. There's always a crowd, but perhaps on account of it being the vegetable place it's also always the least crowded of the Eataly options. I've never had a wait more than ten minutes or so.

                Where you are in Brooklyn is right by my 'hood, so rather than force you to the Outer Boroughs board when one thread will suffice, I'll throw out a few places worth looking into. Your best bet near there is going to be Park Slope. Rosewater and Applewood are both classic New American farm-to-table places, and there will usually be a few vegetarian apps and at least one entree available. Al Di La is a popular cozy Italian place, and Italian tends to be a good option for mixed diners - there are always going to be vegetarian pasta options as mains. All of them source responsibly from humane farms. For something a bit further outside the usual box, there's Java Indonesian Rijsttafel, which has a wide selection of both meat and veg fare, much of which is by nature vegan because they don't use much dairy to begin with. All are within a short walk of your subway options.

                I'll also +1 Babycakes. I tend to hate vegan baked goods, but theirs are pretty solid.

                8 Replies
                1. re: sgordon

                  sgordon and Spiritchaser, thank you for these additional suggestions and especially for the Brooklyn options. I've seen some great reviews of Hangawi and Kajitsu, although Kajitsu has some recent negative reviews (complaining about mediocre food) on Yelp.
                  We were in Eataly on our last visit and were put off by the crowds and overpriced merchandise, but I'll take a look at the Il Verdure menu.
                  sgordon, thanks also for the reminder that Italian may be a good option. My husband and I both love Italian.

                    1. re: Spiritchaser

                      Well...I know Yelp is not reliable and I take reviews there with a grain of salt, but if you look at them as a whole and discard the extreme positive and negative reviews (and the illiterate ones) you can usually get a feel for whether it's the type of place that will appeal.

                      1. re: patdance

                        Yelp is much more reliable in some places. It is very unreliable in New York. At least check and see how the "elites" rate places, but in my neighborhood, the East Village, Yelp is absolutely unreliable, both in terms of high and low ratings, and useful only for names and addresses.

                        1. re: Pan

                          That's good to know, Pan. I try to use a variety of sources when looking for restaurants away from home. In NYC I also look at the Menu Pages site (www.menupages.com)--do you think the ratings/reviews there are reliable?

                          1. re: patdance

                            Nope, not at all. I use that only for addresses, phone numbers, and when they're not available elsewhere, menus (which are sometimes out of date).

                    2. re: patdance

                      Yeah, Italian or Indian tend to be my go-to cuisines for mixed diet crowds, as there's usually better options. For fancier Italian, Scarpetta had a full vegetarian menu in addition to the regular one, so you're not only stuck with pastas as main course options. A few items can be made vegan as well, if I recall correctly.

                      For Indian, maybe check out the menus at Tulsi (Chef Mathur is a vegetarian himself, which is kind of funny since he's famous for his lamb chops), Devi, and Junoon.

                      1. re: sgordon

                        I like what I see on the Tulsi website. Maybe we can go there for a special dinner on Mother's Day weekend.
                        Thanks, sgordon! I really appreciate all of the help from you and others on this board--now I am looking forward to trying new places in NYC instead of worrying that I won't be able to find anything really satisfying.

                  1. In addition to sgordon's suggestions of Dirt Candy and Hangawi (both EXCELLENT choices - my GF is a vegetarian) I would add Kajitsu, it is Shojin cuisine (Japanese vegetarian) and it is fantastic.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Spiritchaser

                      I keep forgetting about Kajitsu since they moved, but yeah, +1 on that.